Christmas is very much a time of giving. It is a time of year when we stop and think of others. One of the joys of Christmas is the giving and receiving of presents. The more personal and thoughtful the gift the nicer it is to receive it.
So, today, I thought I would sit down and come up with some truly personal gift ideas. The nice thing about these ideas is that they work just as well for birthdays or when you just want to brighten someone´s day with an unexpected gift.
Personalised canvas prints
Most people use pictures to decorate their home, so canvas prints from somewhere like hellocanvas.co.uk usually make a great present. You can really personalise this type of gift. Most professional print firms allow you to upload a photo or image of your choosing and have it turned into a canvas print. So, for a grandparent, a snap of them and their grandchildren having fun is an option. For a friend who loves birds a close-up shot of an owl taking flight would be ideal, even better if either you or they took that photo.
In fact, any kind of photo-related gift has the potential to make a good gift. These days you can easily go online and have personalised mugs, phone cases, t-shirts and other items created.
Personalised food hampers
For a friend on a tight budget, a food hamper can be an excellent gift. Often, they will not be able to afford to buy themselves a box of their favourite chocolates or drink the coffee they really like. If you go shopping for those items and put them into a nicely decorated box they are sure to be pleased with your efforts. This is a present that shows that you know them well and demonstrates that they are important to you. When money is tight, practical gifts like this one are usually very welcome.
Gifts that involve spending more time with people
If you have a friend, neighbour or relative that is isolated spending time with them is probably the best gift you can give. It can be as simple as ringing them regularly or popping around once a week with a treat and some magazines. For birthdays and Christmas, the gift of a meal out with you and your family is much better than sending them a voucher for a meal that they will likely have to eat alone. Taking them with you on a day out and paying for their entrance ticket is another way to give the gift of company as well as a physical present.
Gifts you make yourself
Making your own gifts can be a good way to personalise them more. There are literally hundreds of different items that you could potentially make and give to friends and family. This article is a great source of inspiration. It contains 100 ideas including home knitted blankets, to poetry and Russian mule mugs that you can engrave yourself.
A few years ago I wrote about my top Christmas stocking fillers for girls and gave my readers an opportunity to win them all. I decided to do the same again this year. Except this time, I’m including a range of stocking fillers, which include girls and boys. All of these presents, are hand selected by me as gifts that I like and will appear in one of my own children’s Christmas stockings. For those who are not regular readers, I have a ten year old daughter, two 5 year old daughters and a one year old son, so you can expect to find presents suited to those ages. Just like last time, you will have the opportunity to win ALL of these Christmas stocking presents. This giveaway will only run for one week, so that the prize can be sent out before Christmas.
Top Ten Christmas Stocking Presents
So here are my 2017 selections for top Christmas stocking presents (and the prizes you could win) – in no particular order…
Num Noms Mystery Pack (RRP £3.99)
Num Nom’s are small food scented collectible toys. They are currently on series 4.1, which include a scented lip gloss or nail varnish, alongside the scented toy. Every Num Nom has a different scent and if you stack them, you can create “recipes” by merging the scents. Children love the mystery packs, because they don’t know which Num Nom they are going to get until they unwrap it. My oldest has been a fan of Num Noms for some years and last year she actually had a Num Noms advent box made for her. She made a video for YouTube showing her opening days 1 – 10 of that advent box, which you can find here:
LOL Surprise Ball (RRP £9.99)
LOL Surprise balls feature seven layers for children to unwrap. Each layer reveals a new surprise, from stickers to tiny doll outfits, shoes and water bottles, as well as a LOL Surprise Doll. The ball itself becomes both a handbag and a little room for the LOL Surprise doll. Some of the dolls cry, some wee and some spit, but they don’t tell you which, so you have to find out for yourself. Some change colour in water too. There are a number of different dolls to collect, each with a different name and different outfit. LOL Surprise have been hugely popular in the UK and all three of my girls love them.
Everyone loves Paddington Bear don’t they? His popularity has soared even more since the two Paddington Bear movies. Born Gifted personalise their Paddington Bear Christmas mugs with the name and message of your choice to make this a truly personal Christmas gift. These retail at £9.99 and I think they’d make great presents for children of all ages, and adults too. I mean I’d like one of these! This mug makes both a cute and practical gift and features one of Britain’s best loved characters.
Bush Baby World Dreamstar Bush Baby (RRP £7.99)
I first came across Bush Baby’s at the 2017 Dream Toys press event. Bush Baby’s are cute little cuddly toys and through a little hole in the back, you can wiggle their ears and waggle their eyes. They come in a variety of colours and you can buy a range of accessories for them to inspire imaginative play. Each Bush Baby has their own character and you can go online to hear their voices and watch episodes of the Bush Baby’s programme. There’s a whole Bush Baby World and creative play area on the Bush Baby website, so you can continue play both online and offline.
Zuru Mayka Toy Block Tape (RRP £6.99-£14.99)
This is another product I discovered at Dream Toys. This adhesive tape will stick to almost any surface and can be removed (and restuck) without leaving a mark. You can then attach building blocks, so that the toys your children have built, can be put literally anywhere. The tape is flexible, so it can curve, go around corners, stick upside down and be cut to whatever length you need. Mayka toy block tape is compatible with all leading toy building blocks. I think this is a pretty genius invention personally, and with several Lego lovers in the family, it makes an ideal stocking filler.
Fletter Card Game (RRP £7.99)
Targeted at children over 8 years old, Fletter is a pocket sized game for 2 or more players. This game is for fast thinkers and fast talkers as you have to be the first to make words from a string of letters and say them out loud. Fletter (made by BINCA) is handy to take anywhere, because of it’s compact size. So if you’re a family who likes to travel or just always have some activities to hand to keep the family entertained, then this is ideal. It doubles as being educational too, helping children with spelling (but don’t tell them that!).
My First JCB (RRP £4.99)
My 1st JCB make a range of tractor toys and this is one of the smallest in the range, making it perfect to fit in a Christmas stocking and a great price too. Rolling Digger Joey is a toy JCB tractor and on Golden Bear’s website you can buy bigger versions and other types of tractors, such as Rolling Digger Dan, squirting tractors and pullback tractors. These are made with a strong and durable plastic, making them suitable for indoor and outdoor play. The recommended age range for these is 12months and upwards.
Hallmark’s Itty Bitty’s (RRP £6)
Itty Bitty’s are sweet little plush toys (the perfect size to put in a Christmas stocking) and they come in a few different ranges. So whether your child is into Snoopy, Princesses, Scooby Doo, Mickey Mouse, Star Wars, Marvel, DC Comics or Disney, there’s an Itty Bitty perfect for them. My little boy has a love of Harley Quinn ever since we won him a cuddly one in an arcade, so he will be seeing the Harley Quinn Itty Bitty in his Christmas stocking this year. And the giveaway winner will also receive an Itty Bitty plush from one of the ranges (I can’t guarantee which character the winner will get just yet!).
Moshi Monsters Egg Hunt Personalised Book (RRP £19.99)
Mind Candy’s Moshi Monsters have been around for years now and are still popular. Based on the Moshi Monsters Egg Hunt game, you can now have a whole book personalised for your child. The book features a new Moshling, named after your child, with hidden characters and secret codes. In addition to personalising the book for your child, you also get trading cards featuring your child’s Moshling and a personalised poster too. There’s quite a few different personalisation options to go through when you create the book, which I think is fantastic.
Brainbox Bounce (RRP £5.99)
Brainbox Bounce is a card game with 52 cards suitable for ages 7 and upwards. In this game, play is bounced from player to player as you take it in turns to answer questions and the winner is the person left holding all the cards at the end. There are different versions of the BrainBox Bounce game, but we like the animal one, which is a spot the difference game. This is a nice handy travel sized game, so ideal to put in the bag if the children are off to stay with the grandparents and the ideal size to go in Christmas stockings too!
So these are my top ten Christmas stocking presents for children this year. For your chance to win them all… Enter using the Rafflecopter below.
Please make sure you are able to respond to emails on 20th December when the winner is chosen, as I’d like to get the prize dispatched that day, to ensure delivery in time for Christmas. I cannot be held responsible for delays in contacting me or delays in the postal system.
You must be resident in the UK and aged over 18 to enter. The winners details will be shared with the brands donating the prizes.
Mealtimes are a focal point in most family lives and they can be a great time to sit down and catch up on how everyone’s day has gone. But, given that we all need to eat every day, preparing the food can become a bit tedious, especially if you’re the one who does all the cooking. Instead, try the ideas below for mixing things up a little and hopefully saving you some time in the kitchen.
Cook Large; Feed Twice
When you start every meal from scratch each evening, cooking can become a chore. By cooking larger meals, you can generate a couple of follow-on meals that take half the time in preparation. A classic example is having a roast dinner. Depending on how many are in your household, you could either buy a large chicken or even cook two smaller ones. Cook a tray of roasted veggies at the same time as your chicken. This way, you’ll have plenty of leftovers for a meal the next day.
“Chicken Roasted with Turnips and Carrots” (CC BY 2.0) by naotakem
A great second meal from a roast chicken is to slice up the leftover meat, pick the bones of the carcass, and dice up the leftover veggies. Cook some rice and then fry the leftover meat and veg in with the rice, onions, and garlic, creating a quick and easy fried rice dinner. Adding soy and serving with some sweet chilli sauce transforms your leftover roast into a Chinese cuisine favourite and, once you’ve cooked your rice, it will only take you about ten minutes to make.
Alternatively, use the carcass and leftovers as a basis for a chicken soup or stew, adding some fresh veggies like peas or spinach in the final five minutes of cooking. Serve with fresh bread and butter. Again, you’ve got a whole new meal with very little effort involved. If neither of these suggestions inspires you, check out these BBC Good Food recipe ideas for using up chicken leftovers.
Tweak Family Favourites
Part of the problem with deciding what to eat for dinner is settling on something that the whole family likes. Instead of trying to please everyone, all the time, make eating something new an experience you can all try together.
For instance, if your kids are pizza fans, try tweaking the standard favourite into something they might not have tasted before. Lebanese man’ousha or manaqish are basically small pizzas so, even if you’ve got a child who’s resistant to trying something new, this isn’t too big a step.
A man’ousha is a flatbread dough that’s topped with herbs and spices, cheese and meat. In a similar way to Italian foccacia bread, the dough is dimpled with the fingertips to provide spots for the filling to settle in. If your kids like to help in the kitchen, this is a fun dish to help make and there are plenty of recipes online, including on the Deliveroo blog. Once you’ve got the basics of how to make the dough, there’s no need to stick to prescribed toppings. You can decorate each man’ousha with whatever you want.
The classic dish to have alongside man’ousha is houmous (maybe another taste challenge for the kids?), and a nice green salad would go well with it too.
We all get tired of routine, kids included, so, if you’re finding mealtimes have that same-y feel to them, try pairing up with a friend and take turns cooking for the kids as a collective once a week. You could host on alternate weeks, straight after school pick-up time. That way, your kids get to taste someone else’s cooking (and vice versa) and they all get to have a playdate at the same time.
Cousins II” (CC BY 2.0) by Marina K Caprara
What you make depends on who’s eating, of course, but this would be a perfect opportunity for prepare-ahead food such as cottage pie or a big chilli that you can cook the night before and simply heat up when everyone’s ready to eat.
It also gives you a chance to catch up with a friend and the kids’ dinnertime will be done and dusted earlier than usual. You might eat with them or wait until you’ve got home, get the kids off to bed, and have a quiet dinner with your partner for once.
Cooking’s a necessity in life but that doesn’t mean that feeding the kids every night has to be difficult or take lots of time. Experiment with a few different dishes and shake up mealtimes a bit, and preparing dinner will feel less of a chore.
Recently, we had parents evening at school and I was eager to see how my three girls were doing.
Tiny and Fluffy are now in year one of primary school and last year were put on a MyPlan. MyPlan is basically an action plan for children who are a little bit behind their peers academically. The twins were born premature and low birth weight, due to me having undiagnosed HELLP Syndrome. This was the reason that they’ve always had a developmental delay. They were a few months behind all their milestones as babies. Sitting, crawling, walking, talking, potty training. It didn’t help that when they finally learnt to talk, they created their own language, which only they could understand. Twin-speak is common amongst twins and in the case of my two, they were abbreviating all words and merging them together. It was almost impossible to work out, but they understood each other perfectly. It didn’t do much for their pronunciation of real words though.
Tiny was also diagnosed with Glue Ear a few months ago, which affects her hearing. We are awaiting a surgery date for her to have gromits fitted. Her hearing being poor, in turn affects her speech and reading too.
So it was no surprise in reception year, when the pair of them were put onto MyPlan for being behind on their reading, writing, speech and counting. As a mum, I’d seen noticeable improvements at home in their reading, speech and counting over the start of year one.
At parents evening, their teacher agreed that they’ve made a great deal of progress already, in the first half term of year one. Their pronunciation is improving and their counting is almost up to the level of their peers. They are still a long way off on their writing and whilst Fluffy is now starting to click with her reading, Tiny is still struggling with it. Behaviourally, I’ve been told they have pretty much caught up with their friends. Sometimes they are still defiant and not wanting to work when they are told to, but it’s not as often as it used to be. So all in all, they’ve made a great deal of progress considering they’ve only been in year one for a half a term. She said she thinks they’ve done really well, considering they weren’t really ready for school at age four. I’m pleased with that!
Bunny is now in year six; her final year of primary school. Last year she had some behavioural problems, some problems with listening and communication and some issues with friendships and bullies. It was suggested that she has Auditory Processing Disorder, which means she can hear instructions fine, but her brain doesn’t process things she hears correctly. So she may hear a sentence jumbled or only retain sections of the sentence. In order to not look silly, she often guesses the bits of missing information. Having APD can cause a lot of frustration, confusion and in turn cause anger and a bad attitude. This potential diagnosis made a lot of sense. It explained a LOT. I did a lot of research into APD and I think that actually this does explain most of her behaviour issues at home.
I’m having regular meetings now, with a lady at the school who is investigating APD and better ways to communicate with Bunny. In addition, she’s going to help me decide whether an official diagnosis is necessary or not.
So for year six parents evening… Her teacher told us that she is now getting on much better with her peers (half the class have moved up to secondary school so she has a different mix of friends now) and she is excelling in all subjects. She occasionally struggles with maths and either gets every question right, or every question wrong, which I still think is down to her listening, processing and understanding of calculation methods. When she reads or sees instructions, she has no issues – it’s only when the instructions are verbal, that she has issues. Apparently she still doesn’t settle into a lesson straight away, she chats and gets distracted. Her teacher doesn’t feel it’s a concern as, in his words, “she’s bright enough to miss fifteen minutes of a lesson and still catch up”. He also told us she is ahead of most of her class in some subjects and that he feels she would be perfect for Grammar school. So that throws my post about choosing a secondary school up in the air, as we were considering not taking the late grammar test. Maybe we will try afterall!
A pretty positive parents evening all in all – for all three of my girls. One proud mummy right here!
Not long ago, I wrote a review of the Vauxhall Crossland X (think pyjama mamas). Since then I’ve also spent a week test driving the Vauxhall Zafira. Now I actually used to have a Zafira, but I had one of the old models. A very basic no-frills old model. I wanted to see how different the newer models are. The newer Zafira’s are known as the Zafira Tourer.
As a slightly larger than average family, we need at least one of our cars to be a seven seater and a Zafira is one of the smaller and less expensive seven seaters on the market. I believe the current starting price is around £19,930 for the “Design” model.
The Vauxhall Zafira is not as attractive as the Crossland X, but it’s appearance has definitely improved a great deal since the older versions. For the best model, you are looking at the “Elite Nav” which has a starting price of £26,360 and quickly escalates when you add on extra features. To be honest, once you get up to needing a seven seater, you stop caring about how the car looks. Comfort, space, affordability and practicality become the new priorities in car shopping. Comfort wise, the new Zafira is great. The seats are comfy and the back two fold down very easily if you need them to.
Safety wise, the car has child locks, ISOFIX points (at the sides but not the middle seat) and you can switch the passenger airbag off with your car key, should you need to put a child in the front. The middle seat column does move back and forth a little, if you need more room in the back and less in the middle, or vice versus. The back seats are fixed. This model didn’t have the one touch child lock button though, which I was surprised about. Perhaps it’s an optional extra?
Space wise though, I didn’t find the Zafira very practical. To get my sons pushchair in the car, I had to fold one of the back seats down. If I had five children, this would quickly become an issue. For families with children who no longer need a pushchair, this car would be more appropriate (as long as you don’t want to take a great deal of luggage anywhere or do a big food shop all together). I personally found it too small for my needs, with four children (three in car seats and one with a pushchair). There was nowhere to put any shopping and if we had wanted to go anywhere overnight or for a long day trip, we’d have needed a roof rack and roof box. I can see that for the every day, A to B, school runs, commute to work etc, then the Zafira is an affordable and practical option for families. It’s not the car for me though.
The car benefits from many of the same features as the Crossland X, with the OnStar, WiFi, sat nav, Bluetooth and DAB radio. This particular model has parking sensors, but no parking camera, so I would recommend upgrading to parking camera’s if you were looking to buy any Vauxhall. Whilst I have 13 years driving experience without any parking sensors or cameras, the cameras really do make parking so much quicker and easier.
One of the negatives of the Vauxhall Zafira, is that this car, lacks poke. Even when you switch off eco mode, this car is very slow to pull away and to pick up speed. Slower even than my own car, which is an old 2.9 diesel with engine problems. I’m no speed demon, by any stretch of the imagination, but I would have preferred a slightly faster engine than this one. The benefits of this model though, is that it’s extremely fuel efficient. Switching the car to ECO mode, makes it even moreso. We drove this car around for a week and only used two bars of fuel. Doing the same journey’s in my own car, would have used at least four bars on the fuel gage. Therefore, the Zafira is cost effective, if you want a seven seater, which is not a gas-guzzler and will cost you less in fuel, than most of it’s competitors.
It’s possible, that my criticism of the Zafira is much more harsh, than my criticism of any of the five seater cars I review. This is because I LOVE my own seven seater car and am yet to find any seven seater which meets my expectations. My own car however, is very old and went out of production about five years ago, so I do need to try and be more open minded, for when the day comes that I need to upgrade.
All in all, I found the Zafira very comfortable, easy to drive, easy to park and a great little family runaround. I love all the technology that comes with Vauxhalls now, which makes driving so much more enjoyable. To be honest, I’ve always had a soft spot for Vauxhalls as I learnt to drive in an Astra and a Vectra and my first car, was an Agila. Due to the limited boot space however, I would only recommend the Zafira for families of two or three children (four if they don’t all need car seats), despite it being a seven seater. If all the children are older and only half of them need car seats, then this car would be fine for a family of five children (or a single parent of six). If it’s a small, compact seven seater you are looking for, then this one is probably right for you. Either way, I’d recommend getting a roof rack and box.
On Wednesday, I went to the Dream Toys UK press show, where they officially announce the 2017 Dream Toys list. The list is compiled by the Toy Retailers Association to predict the best toys of the year and the biggest Christmas sellouts. I can honestly say, this was the most fun I’ve ever had at a press show. I was surrounded by toys, PR teams demonstrating said toys and life size characters walking around too. There was Christmas food and even Father Christmas himself came to the event. My twins are very jealous that I met Skye and Rubble from the Paw Patrol!
2017 Dream Toys List
You can find the full list of the 2017 Dream Toys by heading over to the official Dream Toys Facebook page. I, however, am going to give you a run through of my personal favourites from the list. The toys most suited to my own children, that have really made me want to go out and buy them for Christmas.
So my personal favourites, in no particular order (and the things I am hoping to by my own children)…
Fur Real Roarin’ Tyler
If you don’t get the opportunity to see a demonstration model working, I’d definitely recommend trying to find a demo on YouTube because pictures alone, do not do this tiger justice. If you have a child who keeps asking for a pet and you don’t want a real pet, then Tyler is the next best thing. He has various different sensors and responds in different ways to touch and sound (over 100 different sound and motion combinations). I’ve been told that if you ROAR at him, he roars back (it was too noisy in the showroom to test it out). I wish I could buy one of these for each of my children, because despite their ages varying from 1-10 I know they’d all love this toy. I want one myself! However, at a retail price of £134.99, I could only really justify getting one Tyler for the family to share.
Paw Patrol Sea Patroller
My twins (5 years old) are Paw Patrol fanatics and Baby Bear (1) steals their Paw Patrol toys at every opportunity. The last few Christmases and birthdays have been dominated by Paw Patrol in this house. The sea patroller is the one thing we don’t have and my girls have already asked for it for Christmas.
Bush Baby World Sleepy Pod with Bush Baby
I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to play with these at the show as there was a queue for the stand, but I was lucky enough to get one in my goodybag. And I have to say, for a £12.99 toy, these are very cute. You put a finger in the nack and their eyes move and their ears wiggle. I’m going to buy a second one and put these in the twins Christmas stockings. The Bush Baby World Dream Tree also made it onto the Dream Toys list and retails at £49.99.
Chocolate Egg Surprise Maker
Now this takes the chocolate egg makers of my own childhood a step further. You can put little toys or sweets (not included) in plastic eggs and then coat them in melted chocolate. Set them in the fridge, wrap them in foil and you have your own surprise eggs! This retails at £24.99 and would be perfect for my 10 year old.
Duplo: The Number Train
I think my twins actually had a similar toy to this when they were younger. Now though, I think this would be perfect for Baby Bear, who had recently taken an interest in Duplo. At £12.99 this is really good value for money too. Duplo is probably the most indestructible toy I’ve ever bought.
Lego Friends Sunshine Catamaran
Bunny has a big collection of Lego Friends sets and I guarantee that as soon as I show her the Dream Toys list, this will be the thing she says, “I WANT THIS FOR CHRISTMAS!”. The top deck of the catamaran comes off to reveal the lounge and bedroom inside the cabin of the boat. At £64.99 this will likely be Bunny’s main Christmas present.
Hands up who remembers the Giggle Wiggle game the first time around? I remember this from my own childhood and I can even remember the TV advert from the 1990’s! How awesome is it, that in this day and age of technology, that some of the good old favourites have been brought back to life? This one is £24.99 and I’m thinking of buying it before Christmas as a family game to play on cold wet weekends.
Sylvanian Families Starry Point Lighthouse
My mum has a whole attic full of Sylvanian Families. They were my outright favourite toy as a child. It was the toy I asked for for birthdays and Christmas, and I was given set as get well presents when I was on chemo. I love that this toy brand have retained their integrity for decades now and the modern toys still fit right in next to the vintage sets. The Starry Point Lighthouse (£58.99) also projects a starry light pattern onto the ceiling.
There was one toy which didn’t quite make the Dream Toys list but which I still loved from the press show…
You might have seen a viral video going around, where a little boy is shown a cute cuddly toy, and then as it bears it’s teeth he cries. A bit cruel yes, but once the children know what this toy does, I think it’s actually pretty awesome! My favourite is the panda. It looks so sweet and innocent until it turns “fiesty”. These are made by Re:Creation and retail for £19.99. Please do buy the originals though; there are a lot of fakes online and they simply aren’t as cute or as soft.
So those are my favourites. I was also very lucky to take away a goodybag which contains some of the Dream Toys I’ve not mentioned, but which my children are still going to absolutely love at Christmas. I actually gave in and let them have a LOL Surprise each from my goodybag, when I got home from London! Are you planning to buy any of the toys from the Dream Toys list for your own children? Maybe you already have?
On Monday, I woke up to a text message from my girl’s school. It said, “The school currently has no water” and went on to explain that the school might not be open. We were updated a few minutes later with a text confirming that school was indeed closed for the day. A lay-in for us all, I thought. Then I heard some grumping coming from the bathroom. Mike was getting ready for work and it hadn’t dawned on me that we may also have the same problem as the school. Sure enough… we had no running water either. Mike is probably the cleanest, most hygienic man I have ever met, so my suggestion of “dry shampoo and Febreeze” did not go down too well.
It turned out that Severn Trent had a main water pipe, measuring 24 inches wide, which had burst, in the middle of a field. They had to dig up the field and fix it, before the water supply would return. A huge chunk of Cheltenham and some of Gloucester were left without water.
Back in the July 2007 floods, I had no running water and no electricity. The police knocked on my door and told us we had to evacuate our home and not to return for at least a week. So one day without water this time, really wasn’t the end of the world. I’d done it before, I could do it again. But it’s not until the water is off, that you realise just how much water you use.
We couldn’t flush the toilets. So naturally, my children managed to shit in every toilet, first thing in the morning.
They had to babywipe and hand-sanitise afterwards because… there’s no running water.
We had no heating, because apparently, (I didn’t know this) the radiators need running water to heat up. Well… they say you learn something new every day!
We couldn’t make drinks or wash up after breakfast.
I couldn’t wash and sterilise and make up baby bottles.
We had to think more carefully about what we cooked – nothing that needed water.
My work had running water, so at least I had the option of going there to do Bear’s bottles, but it was the other side of town and it was the coldest day yet, this autumn.
So instead I baby-wipe-washed the children and we set of for the supermarket, to buy bottled water. Silly, silly me…
As ever, I was late to the party. Every supermarket in the area had sold out of bottled water. Thankfully, the guys at my local corner shop, showed up with a van full of water, just as we got home. We were saved. I managed to do all the bottles, wash up, make everybody drinks and flush one of the toilets with the washing up water. Just an hour later, Severn Trent set up a water station at a local supermarket, giving out free water to all local residents (you had to provide ID to show you lived in an affected postcode).
By the afternoon, the house was getting very cold. We had British Gas out trying to fit Smart Meters for our utilities, so that we could be more energy-conscious. This meant that they also had to switch off the electricity for a little while. By this point, it was getting dark outside, it was almost evening and we had lit candles in the lounge to provide us with both heat and light. As we sat there in the dark, showing the children videos on our phones for entertainment, Mike commented, “It’s like the olden days, during the war”. I joked, “yes I’m sure they all sat around watching YouTube on their smartphones during the war!”. The children now think that Mike and I were alive during the war. And that they had smartphones and 4G back then. I don’t think they are going to do well at GCSE history.
At around 5pm, we had heat, light and water back. The water is low-pressure, murky, cloudy, discoloured and has little bits floating in it, but it’s still running water. According to Severn Trent it is still safe to drink.
We were back in 2017 in our lovely home with the radiators heating up, Paw Patrol on TV and multi-coloured Hue lighting. The Wifi was back on for Bunny to continue competing against her friends at Times Table Rock Stars and the children were back to taking for granted all the things we have in modern day Britain.
Bunny is now in Year 6 at school, which means that the time has come to choose a secondary school. Bunny’s first choice of school, is a Grammar school, where two of her friends go. However, we were told to go online on July 1st to book her in for the Grammar test, only to find that the registration had already closed. We had been given the wrong information and the registration was actually on June the 1st, not July. Bunny was gutted and I felt like an absolute failure as a mother. I had fallen at the first hurdle of her impending adolescence and there was nothing I could do about it.
The LEA told me that I can apply for the late test next March, but by then allocations will have gone out, so her chances of getting a space will be slim to none. So it’s back to the drawing board and choosing a public school where Bunny will thrive.
My first choice of school to look around, was the one where most of her friends are planning to go (and in general, the majority of the children from her school go). When I went to secondary school, I went to a school where only two of my friends were going. I ended up being left out, feeling isolated, getting bullied and generally having a horrible experience of high school. I don’t want this to happen to Bunny, so I think some importance should be placed on her having friends at secondary school.
I went on the open day, listened to the headteacher’s talk and then went on a tour around the school. I figured it was important to consider what Bunny needs and wants from a school, so I had to silence the part of myself which was inwardly criticising the archaic science block. Even though I really think they need to knock it down and build a new one. Bunny had absolutely no interest in science. She loves English, sport and above all, art and design. So it doesn’t matter if the science block looks like it got stuck in the sixties. What mattered was the art and design options on offer.
I asked lots of questions. I wanted to see the design rooms, hear what design courses were on offer and how many of them she was allowed to choose for GCSE’s. Back in my school days, we were only allowed to do one design subject, but nowadays, at this particular school, they said she could take up to four design GCSE’s. Bunny wants to be a fashion designer, so art, textiles, photography and a number of other design subjects all being open to her, is great.
Bunny also loves sport, she is a keen gymnast, who has been training for six years now. She also loves cross country running and has been competing locally for her primary school. To hear about the secondary schools links with external sporting associations, their gymnastic and cross country programmes and see their sports facilities were also strong areas of interest for me.
I picked Bunny up from primary school and took her for a tour around the school too. She saw some of her friends from the year above and found the whole experience hugely exciting. It’s made me wonder whether we even bother with the Grammar test. She seemed so keen to go to this secondary school.
I plan to look around some of the other local secondary schools, so that I have comparisons, but I think deep down I just know, that the school we looked around first is the school for Bunny. Their sports facilities and design facilities and programmes were fantastic. She has friends there. She’s excited. It’s not too far away. The teachers seemed friendly. The pupils seemed happy. There seemed to be a lot of pupil led choices and exciting extra curricular activities and opportunities. I think my little girl (okay… maybe not-so-little anymore) would be happy there and to me, that’s the most important thing of all.
Your home, your castle – give your home some kerb appeal!
Who doesn’t love the feel of a new carpet being fitted? Or how fresh and new a simple lick of paint can look and make you feel? Everyone loves adding something new to their home or just refreshing it from time to time, but what about the outside of the house?
Often neglected, the front of your house really does play an important role. It helps enforce the feel of the neighbourhood, it’s also a huge indicator as to what the inside might look like. So why not help match the inside with the outside and give your home some much needed tlc? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Numbers, plaques & names
If you ever needed a new door sign then now is the time to get one! It doesn’t have to be large and elaborate, but a well-made, smart looking door number or sign is a great start. And it’ll make it easier for the postman too!
When it comes to door signs, most sign makers will give you a blank canvas. Everything from the shape to the colours to the font style is your choice. The only limit is your imagination.
Dress up the front door
Your home’s front entry is the focal point of its curb appeal. Make a statement by giving your front door a blast of colour with paint or by installing a custom wood door. Clean off any dirty spots around the knob, and use metal polish on the door fixtures.
Install outdoor lighting
Low-voltage landscape lighting makes a huge impact on your home’s kerb appeal while also providing safety and security. Fixtures can add accent lighting to trees or the house or can illuminate a walking path. If you aren’t able to use lights that require wiring, install solar fixtures but remember the light won’t be as bright.
Create an instant garden
Flower pots and boxes add a welcoming feel and colourful kerb appeal to any home exterior – quickly and affordably. You can buy ready-made containers from garden centres or create your own with your favourite plants.
Renew your planters and put life back into your garden
Get garden beds into shape by pruning growth, pulling weeds, planting flowers, and adding new gravel to restore colour that was taken away by sunlight and harsh weather. If stone or brick borders your bed, consider cleaning and resetting any pieces that are soiled or dislodged. If your border is old or tired-looking, try upgrading to stone or a decorative cast-concrete edging system for improved kerb appeal.
Add outdoor art
Give your front garden or yard some culture and beauty, by adding weather-resistant artwork. Choose pieces that complement your home’s natural palette and exterior elements. Birdbaths, metal cut-outs, sculptures, and wind chimes are good choices for outdoor art. Water sculptures not only function as art, but the burbling sounds soothe and make hot days feel cooler. Just try to avoid areas where leave like to drop.
I only managed to breastfeed my oldest daughter for 6 weeks, due to having very little knowledge of breastfeeding or support. When Bunny had a growth spurt and I didn’t have enough milk, I simply gave up.
With my twins, I did my research and persevered with tandem breastfeeding, exclusively for three months and mix-fed them from three to five months.
My breastfeeding journey with Bear has had, by far, the most obstacles. My aim was to reach six months. I was desperate to breastfeed to six months, but I had no idea I’d continue breastfeeding to 14 months.
Bear and I, overcame a few latch issues, followed by nipple thrush (and oral thrush for him), and then mastitis. I would not have managed to continue breastfeeding, without the help of a few Lansinoh products, and also the prescriptions from my GP for the Mastitis and thrush.
I used Lansinoh nursing pads in my bra to absorb excess milk and save me the embarrassment of leaking through my top. Whilst these were a little more pricey that some of the other pads available, these were without a doubt the best. They were very absorbent, didn’t leave me feeling damp and uncomfortable, didn’t leak and were soft against my skin.
I bought a seamless, wireless, soft, stretchy, breathable bra for night time, which wasn’t a nursing bra. The comfort of this also helped ease the pain of engorgement when my milk came in and first thing in the mornings when I woke up heaving full of milk.
During the first few weeks of breastfeeding Bear, I suffered from dry, sore and cracked nipples. This was partly due to getting used to newly breastfeeding, partly due to getting sore when my milk first came in and partly due to the other issues I encountered. Lansinoh’s HPA 100% Lanolin, really soothed and healed my nipples. I honestly don’t think I could have continued without this.
When the pain of thrush and mastitis became too much, I used Lansinoh nipple shields, to give me some relief. These were a last resort to me. I was close to just giving up breastfeeding, because the pain was unimaginable. My mastitis was only in one boob, so I at least got some relief when Bear fed on the other side. The thrush however, affected both sides and I suffered much worse with that than the mastitis. As I was crying at the thought of having to give up so early, a friend suggested nipple shields. I was dubious, but I tried them and whilst the pain was still excruciating, the shields did make it just about bearable. I used these until the cream the GP gave me kicked in. Again, Lansinoh had come to my rescue.
I’m pleased to say that breastfeeding became smooth sailing after that. Six months came and went. Mike asked me how long I planned to breastfeed and I moved the goalpost to a year. A year came and went and I decided to stop counting and just breastfeed until the time felt right to stop. I wish I could have found the support and the right products to persevere with this journey with my oldest child.
Lansinoh played a big part in the success of my breastfeeding journey, so it seems fitting that I should be running a giveaway of Lansinoh products. One lucky reader will win the following Lansinoh breastfeeding bundle (worth over £60):
Breast therapy pads
Milk storage bags
To enter, follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter below…